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What I mean by an Octave Jump song is when there is a melody line that is at the low range and then later in the song up one full octave (in a high range).  It seems that these songs are increasing in popularity with some of the current writers and worship leaders.  For example: Here For You and Lord I Need You (both on Passion, Here For You), How He Loves by John Mark McMillan (also recorded by David Crowder).  These are all great songs, but I find that it is difficult to do them well in the context of my church. First it is a challenge for me and most of our vocalists to sing both ends of the range well. Because of this these songs just don't have the same punch that the "pros" can pull-off.  More important is congregational participation.  I think because most people can't do the octave jump, they just don't sing as actively as other songs.

I am interested to know if any of you do Octave Jump songs, which ones?  And how do they work for you and your church.  Thanks.

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Yes, we do them!! Without the octave jump, you're right, the octave-jumping songs don't have the same punch. We do it on Blessed be Your Name, How He Loves, To Know His Name (Hillsong) ... would "Always" by Kristian Stanfill be considered a jump? (On a similar subject, Leeland songs and other songs with a generally large range can be tough to lead/follow too). **I really think the most important thing is HOW we lead them though.**

As long as we can lead the song without a struggle or strain, AND do it passionately ... the congregation will sing along. They may not jump up an octave, but they will sing along. People often say "congregational keys" - what does that really mean anyway? The only songs that will comfortably allow everyone to sing melody the whole way through are songs with a range of five notes. :)

Think too, we all sing along with a variety of artists in the car on the radio - whether they are in our key or not. 

With me a soprano, much of my congregation is not gonna "love" my range to begin with. I used to lower all the songs to an alto range to try to accomodate, but changing my range helped a few and hurt others - including me!! So now, we sing in a reasonable soprano range - and eventually high soprano when it comes to songs with octave jumps. The guys are fine singing an octave below me usually, but some of the girls are low altos and probably just sing with the men on some songs. I am blessed that no one complains about the keys we pick - I have an amazing church that way. The "worship wars" have not struck because many are new believers and they don't know yet to complain about things like that. :P

One SOLUTION if you have trouble leading such a range would be to team-lead it. A tenor guy could start out singing the verses/low octave - and you could pass it over to a woman to do the octave jump.

It is true; I sing along with Bach's B Minor Mass or Beethoven's Fifth or Hotcha Cornia or anything, and don't worry too much about octaves.  Do your people sing?  Can you hear them sing?

We use several.  There is an unwritten rule among many worship leaders that says, "worship is when everyone can sing every not of every song, and if everyone can't sing every note of a song, don't use that song."  I say that rule as a rule is garbage...it might work in some contexts as a good suggestion, but not a definitive rule. 

 

I've discovered people respond to/are moved toward a response by four things in musical worship, not necessarily all at the same time, not necessarily in this order:

 

1) God.

2) The person/people leading them.

3) The music.

4) The lyrics.

 

How He Loves, Forever Reign, and several others that have octave jumps are some of the songs people in my church love the most, not because they can sing every note, but because God is using those songs, because the music is captivating, because the lyrics are solid, because our band loves to play/sing them.

 

There is another unwritten rule that relates to this topic that says, "have one obvious lead vocalist for each song...don't shift between lead vocalists, especially not between genders and/or different vocal parts (tenor, alto, etc.)."  Again, I say this rule can often hurt more than help. 

 

We switch lead vocals in many, if not most of our songs, particularly between male and female.  Lead guy sings verse one, lead girl sings verse two, both sing chorus together, for example.  It works incredibly well and keeps any one song from appearing to be a "man song" or a "girl song".

 

We also sing multiple octaves almost as much as we sing harmonies.  Lead guy singing in a lower octave, lead girl singing in a higher octave, or even two lead guys singing together in different octaves.  This gives people the option to choose what vocal they want to follow based on what kind of range they might have (not even considering those people who have no vocal ability and simply "make a joyful noise".

 

It's great to think strategically, and it's part of our responsibility as worship leaders to help people worship as a whole and individually.  BUT, sometimes we can be too smart for our own good and limit our song option and perhaps even place barriers that hinder people from experience worship that is more than just singing.

 

Nate

Thanks Tricia and Nate!  Those are good ideas - I will work on that with our team(s) so we can make the best of those songs when we do them.  Blessings!

Paul

There appears to be a real trend for these octave jumps in current songwriting, and we struggle with them as congregational songs. My wife and I both lead worship, and I have quite a decent range for a bloke (can manage some of the top F's and G's that Mr Tomlin and Mr Redman quite often write), however, Hannah will pull me up on this as it can be uncomfortable for the female singers to do this as well.

 

We have an unwritten rule that we don't do anything that goes above D octave above middle C, as it's too much for the congregation and for our male and female singers. So quite often (before we even get into octave jumps), we are transposing a lot of songs down a key or two to make them accessible for worship. 

 

For the octave jump songs, depending on how the song works we either take them down to something that is comfortable (and it needs to be comfortable at both ends....songs can be too low as well!), or we've even moved them to the middle ground and not done the octave jump at all....Here For You does work this way, although I agree, it does lose some of the the impact.

 

If the congregation can't sing them comfortably then we don't lead it...otherwise it runs the risk of being a performance. 

 

As a side, the Hello Love Chris Tomlin album (worship leader edition) had all of the chord charts for the songs, but each in two separate versions: Album version (original key) and Congregation version (generally a third lower!)

 

Ta,

I avoid those songs. I'd say that they are more suitable for displaying vocal power than for inviting congregational participation. :) Of course, I don't claim to know everything about worship ministry, so take my advance for what it's worth...

We also do octave jump songs Love Came Down (Ben Cantelon) and You Hold Me Now (Hillsong).

Paul, I gotta say that now your unwritten rule is written!!

Junjie, I see your point - we must take care to not choose a song for the vocal part, the opportunity to show off, or even for the catchy melody. There are a lot of fancy vocal songs/octave-jumpers/etc we would never do - because the lyrics are off, or the message gets lost in the musicianship, or they just don't reflect where our congregation is at. I try to choose songs with solid lyrics that will resound with our congregation. Those are the main criteria.

Thanks Paul and Junjie for your view point.  There seems to be a wide variation of views on this.
lol Tricia - I hope to avoid a "written rule" here.

Tricia, I am starting to hypothesize (yes, again!) that if the lyrics resound deeply enough with the people, the key, octave, singability and all that become secondary concerns. A little off-topic, but one of the most powerful worship sessions I had ended with How Great Thou Art in C major. (We started off in A major then moved up). It worked, but I would never have had that experience if halfway during the set I didn't have the guts to just go for it and do it.

 

Anyway, I don't have enough congregations to use as test subjects for my new hypothesis, so it may remain only a hypothesis! :D

I hate to tell you this, but many of those old hymns that so many people love to sing have some serious octave jumps.  Again, sometimes we think to much for our own good...I doubt this discussion would have even been considered back in the day...

 

Nate

Nate:

 

Many hymns are certainly written in high keys and if I was leading worship with an organist playing from a hymn book I would have trouble with some of them for sure.  Furthermore, if I was singing from the pews to those same hymns I would possibly start to focus on my voice straining for the high notes.  All of this doesn't mean that God doesn't use these songs to minister to people, He is bigger than that obvie.

 This issue is simply this:  how can we deliver a song so that as many people as possible can engage with the song and the message and not be distracted by something that we may be able to change.

 

Blessings,

 

Paul

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